Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
A new novel set largely in Pakistan imagines a rogue CIA unit secretly established to fight terrorism. It opens with a U.S. predator drone strike on a family compound in Pakistan’s tribal region. An American-educated computer scientist is home for a visit. He sees his parents, his brothers and his boyhood home obliterated. The novel has all the elements of a good spy thriller – the fast pace, the intrigue, the pretty female protagonist. The author has been reporting on international affairs, the CIA and the Pentagon for decades. In the novel, and in our studio, he offers insights on U.S. policy and the war on terror.
- David Ignatius columnist, The Washington Post; contributor to “Post Partisan” blog on washingtonpost.com. His latest book is titled "Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage."
What is the ISI?
Author and journalist David Ignatius’s new novel, “Bloodmoney,” is a spy novel set in modern-day Pakistan. Focusing on a rogue CIA unit in that country, some are probably wondering how true to life his chosen subject may be.
Ignatius calls the ISI “a pervasive intelligence presence” that frightens people in Pakistan. As part of the Pakistani military, it its offices around that country have been targets of Taliban and suicide bombers, so it has lost many officers. Ignatius says the ISI is the “eyes and ears” of the military.
“Have there been rumors that the ISI may have been infiltrated by al Qaida?” Diane asked.
“There are rumors. They’re persistent,” Ignatius said. The ISI is so complicated partially because, Ignatius says, the U.S. asked it to recruit among Islamic fundamentalists at the time when America had decided the best way to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan was to effectively organize a Jihad against them. Now, the U.S. is asking for the ISI’s help in cracking down on, for instance, the Haqqani network that has been killing American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan – but Ignatius says we “have to be honest enough to remember” that the Haqqani network first came into power because the U.S. provided the money and training for its members decades ago.
A Book About Revenge
Ignatius’s main character, Omar al-Wazir, is a modern, well-educated and well-traveled Pakistani man from the tribal region of Waziristan. He sees his whole family killed as the result of a Predator drone attack.”This is a book about revenge – it’s about his revenge against the people who killed his family, it’s about our revenge against the people who killed so many of our fellow citizens on September 11, 2001. It’s about this cycle of revenge that we’ve gotten caught up in,” he said.
After seeing his family killed in such a brutal way, al-Wazir’s life changes dramatically, and his quest for revenge begins. One of Ignatius’s challenges that he set for himself in writing the book was to try to “see this war from the eyes of the people under our bombs, which is not something we normally do.”
The U.S.’s Increasing Use of Drones
Diane read an email from a listener in Hartford with a question for Ignatius: “I keep hearing our drones are creating enemies and therefore, we should stop sending drones,” she wrote. “Shouldn’t we stop sending drones because it’s the moral thing to do? We always talk about the cowardly al Qaida. What could be more cowardly than fighting with drones?”
Ignatius said the same questions began to haunt him over the past several years, and is one of his main reasons for writing this book.[The drones] allow you to kill people from 10,000 feet, which seems, to our public, I think wrongly, less bloody than if we did it right up close standing next to someone with a gun,” he said.
Read an Excerpt
From David Ignatius’s “Bloodmoney.” Copyright 2011 by David Ignatius. Excerpted by kind permission of W. W. Norton & Company.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. America's relationship with Pakistan has often been an uneasy one. The reason U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound underscored difficulties between the two presumed allies. A journalist, whose long covered international news, has set his eighth spy novel in modern day Pakistan.
MS. DIANE REHMThe book is titled, "Blood Money," and the author, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, joins me in the studio and of course, you are welcome to join us as well, 800-433-8850. Good morning to you, David, good to have you here.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSGreat to be here, Diane.
REHMThe Washington Post this morning ran a story with this headline, "Pakistan Spy Agencies Are Suspected of Ties To Reporter's Death." Talk about that story.
IGNATIUSThat was a grim story. It was a young reporter named Shahzad. I don't know him personally, but he was making a reputation for himself with courageous reporting about Pakistan's Intelligence Service, the ISI, about the hunt for Taliban and al Qaida terrorists. He was on that cutting edge between the bad guys and the people chasing them, who also sometimes can be bad guys.
IGNATIUSThe fear here is that the ISI, which doesn't like people writing about it or its activities, may have kidnapped him and there are reports that he was tortured before his death. It's really a grisly story. I don't have personal information about it, so I shouldn't rush to judgment about it either way. What is certainly fair to say is that people in Pakistan, especially journalists, are afraid of the ISI's power. That -- this is a pervasive intelligence presence and it frightens people.
REHMHelp me to understand when you say the ISI is a pervasive intelligence presence. What does that mean in the lives of everyday people?
IGNATIUSIn most people's lives, it probably doesn't make a whole lot of difference. It's when you surface, as a journalist does, as a prominent business person does, that you come across the radar of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, is its full name. It's a part of the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military is the institution in Pakistan that works in conventional terms and the ISI is its eyes and ears, you could say. It has offices around the country.
IGNATIUSOne thing that's happened over the last several years is that its offices have increasingly been targeted by Taliban suicide bombers, so the ISI has lost many officers. The ISI -- we should remember that however much friction there is between the United States and the ISI, the ISI is also a target of the terrorists who have killed its officers, targeted individuals specifically, so they live on a knife edge.
REHMHave there been rumors that the ISI may have been infiltrated by al Qaida?
IGNATIUSThere are rumors. They're persistent. The ISI is complicated in part because it was given the task of recruiting among Islamic fundamentalists at the time that the United States decided that the best way to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan was, in effect, to organize a Jihad, to hire the most sort of outlandish, fundamentalist, extreme Jihadist warlords in Afghanistan and their compatriots in Pakistan were part of this and organize them to chase the Soviets out.
IGNATIUSAnd they succeeded. They were effective fighters, especially when they were armed with our anti-aircraft missiles, which made it impossible for the Soviets to move around Afghanistan. That war ended, and as we all know, American walked away. And Pakistan -- the Pakistani Intelligence Service, which had been our agent in organizing these people, had these all Jihadists on its hands. They were on the payroll. Somebody else had been paying the money, but they were reporting to their ISI case officers.
IGNATIUSAnd that's really how this story got started. There were all these fighters, all these armed people on the border and the Pakistani's, not unreasonably, thought, these people are potentially dangerous to us, we got to keep an eye on them, we got to keep them under some kind of control. So they evolved from being, in effect, CIA assets to being ISI assets.
IGNATIUSAnd that brings us to today, where we say to the ISI, for goodness sakes, you got to crack down on the Haqqani network. Well, they do have to crack down on the Haqqani network, which is killing American soldiers in Afghanistan now, but we have to remember, we have to be honest enough to remember that the Haqqani network and its armed power came into being because we wanted it to be that way and we helped provide the money and training.
REHMJournalist David Ignatius, he's a columnist for The Washington Post. He's also the author of eight novels and the latest is titled, "Blood Money: A Novel of Espionage." Set the scene for us. That first portion, David, is so powerful because it puts you right in the middle of a horrifying scene.
IGNATIUSThe book opens, Diane, in a town in South Waziristan, under a predator missile attack. One of these drone attacks that's happened with great frequency, that are a powerful weapon, but infuriate many Pakistanis. And as I was beginning work on this book, I thought that it would be interesting to try to push myself to see this war from the eyes of the people under our bombs, which was not something that we normally do.
IGNATIUSSo I did some research and I hope it's an accurate description of the people and the place, but really, of the emotion, of the fear that these weapons have produced. The power that we can bring to bear, in effect, killing people, taking people out from 10,000 feet from these drone weapons is a new kind of warfare and my character, Omar al-Wazir, from this Wazir tribe in the tribal areas, is scarred by this and it begins a process that unfolds through the book.
IGNATIUSThis is a book about revenge, it's about his revenge against the people who killed his family, it's about our revenge against the people who killed so many of our fellow citizens on September 11, 2001, it's about this cycle of revenge that we've gotten caught up in. And finally, I hope readers will feel it's about how we might get out of that, that deadly cycle that we've gotten into.
IGNATIUSAnd what I did -- the book opens in the tribal areas with this tribal code and it concludes with the way in which conflicts in this part of the world are resolved. The rituals of mutual respect and mutual trust that lead you to be able to end a war and, "Blood Money," strange as it sounds to us, because it sounds so barbaric, "Blood Money," is part of those rituals.
REHMTell us about Dr. Omar. He had actually done some work for the Americans, but when this drone strike occurs, he sees his entire family wiped out and, as you say, revenge becomes a motive. But tell us about him personally.
IGNATIUSHe's a man who is at once marked by this tribal code, the Pashtuns call it Pashtunwali. It's their code of behavior. And a modern man. He's a man, like some I've encountered in real life who has just a gift, a God given gift for mathematics, who sees numbers in his head and is capable of fantastic mathematical calculations.
IGNATIUSSome of the great mathematicians have been people from South Asia, interestingly, who grew up in very poor circumstances, but just have this remarkable gift. And so he goes to university, makes his way out of the tribal area, seems to be a symbol of all the ways the world is changing. Does work for companies in Europe and gives papers in the United States and he becomes a computer expert of the sort that everybody wants to hire. including even our security agencies.
IGNATIUSBut he continues to have this dual life and on this moment when the book starts, when he sees -- as you said, sees his family destroyed in such a brutal way, his life changes and as I said, the ball of the plot of the story starts rolling.
REHMBut the one thing you have not mentioned is the rogue CIA group.
IGNATIUSWell, the -- this book is about a number of things at once. Obviously, it's about our CI presence in Pakistan. I've invented a super-secret new arm of the CIA. I have a feeling that in real life that they're experimenting with things a little bit like this, but in my imaginary spin-off, they've tried to get a capability that is far away from Langley, far away from headquarters, that doesn't use the usual platforms of embassies and other covers that are so easy to identify.
REHMThis one located in Studio City, Calif.
IGNATIUS(laugh) It is in Studio City, Calif. and it's in the entertainment business, inevitability. It calls itself the Hit Parade and it's in the business of licensing rights and organizing conferences and all the things that entertainment companies do out in southern California.
REHMI wish it didn't sound so funny because it's probably true. David Ignatius, his new book is titled, "Blood Money: A Novel of Espionage." Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMWelcome back. David Ignatius is with me. I know many of you have questions for him, but before we open the phones, I'd like you, David, to read from the beginning of your new novel, "Blood Money: A Novel of Espionage." Set it up for us.
IGNATIUSDiane, this is from the opening where the character we were talking about before, Dr. Omar al-Wazir, who's back home in South Waziristan for holidays and for a walk above his home with his brother, Karimullah. "They're almost home. Karimullah is running ahead now to tell their mother that they're back so she can prepare the meal. The light is dying in the afternoon. The mountains are pink where the sun hits the ridges and then the shadows deep purple and cherry black. The sky is a cold dark blue. The moon is up, but the stars are not yet visible.
IGNATIUSOmar looks up by reflex. 'The sky is empty,' he thinks. But then a ray of the disappearing sun catches something in the sky, a ping of light. He shouts to his younger brother, but he's too far ahead to hear now. The guests are already gathering. Their trucks are parked in front of the walled compound. 'It is impossible,' Omar thinks. 'These demons will not harm my family. I've tried to help them, even my brothers and the other fighters. What have they done to America?'
IGNATIUSOmar begins to run. He's been thinking about what he will say tonight to his father and his brothers, but now, his subtle mind is no more capable of forming a thought than that of an animal on the run. He can hear the sound. It is the faint throb of an engine and he wants to think it's coming from town down the road a few miles away, but it is sharper and more persistent. He looks up again and he knows with the instinctual certainty of the hunted that the sound is coming from the sky 10,000 feet above.
IGNATIUSHe cries out to his brother as he runs toward the walls that contained his life when he was a boy and that now shelters his mother and sisters and the young children. Another truck is arriving for the dinner, kicking up dust and Omar is wailing for his brother now, as loud as he can, screaming for his attention, but it is too late. The light is gone and each frame of time is too short. The whisper overhead has become the relentless hum of a giant indestructible insect.
IGNATIUSKarimullah has stopped. He hears the sound, too, and he's looking into the sky. He raises his gun instinctively, but it is useless and he begins to run. The gates of the compound burst open and the members of his family try to dash away, tumbling in their robes, calling on God. They're helpless. They cannot see what is overhead, but they sense it from the sound and they experience the degradation of fear. Their bowels give way and they stumble and fall. The little ones put their hands over their ears as if that will stop what is coming.
IGNATIUSHadji Mohammad (sp?) does not run. He's a man. He walks slowly and deliberately from the compound, holding the hand of one of his guests. Omar is on the ground now and he sees the sudden shadow of a metal arrow darken the orchards. The fire dragon is descending, but he cannot hear its roar. It is moving faster than its sound, it is so quick. This last moment, no more than the blink of an eye and it is too late. The trees bend and the grass goes flat and the animals bellow for help and the people of Omar's world are stopped in time."
REHMDavid Ignatius reading from his new novel, "Blood Money." David, that's just breathtaking. And you said to me you had to push yourself to write in that manner.
IGNATIUSWell, I wanted to do the thing that is hardest, but also most valuable for a writer, which is to see things through other people's eyes, through the eyes of people very different from us and that's the gift that a novel offers. As your listeners may know, I'm a journalist. I write journalism twice a week in a column for The Washington Post.
IGNATIUSAnd people ask me sometimes, why do you write novels? And the answer obviously is that it gives me a chance to step out of myself and to imagine other worlds, to let myself try to think, what would it be like to be a Pashtun tribesman on the ground in Makeen, South Waziristan as that -- a Predator Hellfire missile descends.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Nina in Hartford who says, "I keep hearing our drones are creating enemies and therefore, we should stop sending drones. Shouldn't we stop sending drones because it's the moral thing to do? We always talk about the cowardly al-Qaida. What could be more cowardly than fighting with drones?"
IGNATIUSWell, I would say to Nina, that same question began to haunt me over the last year, 18 months, and was one of the things driving my book. I've also written columns about this. We have a problem in North and South Waziristan with al-Qaida fighters and other terrorists there who want to kill Americans. We don't have good weapons to go after them. The Pakistanis who are our allies have really not been effective in closing those safe havens for these fighters who, again, I have to underline, they want to kill us. They'd love to set off a bomb in Washington tomorrow.
IGNATIUSSo we've turned increasingly to these weapons, which from a weapon designer standpoint, are wonderful. They fly at 10,000 feet, they're really not typically observable, they're very accurate, they have persistent radar and cameras that allow you to see with great detail. And I think that in a way, the United States is getting addicted to the use of Predators. They're too easy an answer to problems that we have. They allow you to exercise power without putting your own soldiers on the ground at risk.
IGNATIUSThey allow you to kill people from 10,000 feet, which seems, to our public, I think wrongly, less bloody than if we did it right up close standing next to someone with a gun. And the use of them is spreading. I was distressed and wrote so in The Washington Post when it was announced that we were sending Predators armed with Hellfire missiles to Libya to that conflict. I will tell you, Diane, that the Saudis want to get Predators to shoot at their enemies along the Yemeni border, the Turks want to get Predators to shoot at their enemies in Kurdistan.
IGNATIUSWe're going to enter a world in which everybody's going to have some equivalent of this technology and you're going to have unarmed and unmanned drones flying all over taking out people that, you know, governments don't like. And I think we have slid into that world without thinking about it enough.
REHMIn the last hour, we were talking about Afghanistan and one of the arguments made by one of our guests was that, should we withdraw from Afghanistan precipitously, that there is the problem of Pakistan with nuclear weapons. And what is the alternative if, as you say, Predator drones, these missiles unmanned that are killing people, are being used as weapons instead of using our own soldiers who are dying in great numbers? I mean, that's the other side.
IGNATIUSIf the Pakistanis either would go into the safe havens now, primarily in North Waziristan, on the ground themselves or they'd let us go in on the ground ourselves with our special forces operating jointly or unilaterally, I would favor that. So far, that's not happening and so we have, I would say, debase choices and we continue to use the Predators.
IGNATIUSThe honest answer to your question is that as Secretary of State Clinton said in an important speech February 18, the outcome in the war in Afghanistan must be a political outcome. And just as we surged troops a year ago to try to reverse the momentum of the Taliban, now we have to surge diplomacy and seek a negotiated settlement. And I think she's serious about it. I think our new special representative, Mark Grossman, is serious about it.
IGNATIUSI wrote last week that there are signs that both India and Pakistan may be ready to support a regional process that would support peace negotiations. There are reports that I was able to confirm that the U.S. is in secret contact with the Taliban, with Taliban representatives, thanks to mediation by Germany and Cutter (sp?). So a process of discussion is rolling forward and I think that we all -- I can't imagine there isn't anyone who doesn't hope that something like that succeeds.
IGNATIUSIt's not going to happen quickly and we do need to be careful of it. We agreed with the Afghanistan government on a timetable of 2014 when they'll be strong enough to have a country that can stand on its own with a real army and...
REHMDo you believe that?
IGNATIUSI believe that despite the gross corruption of President Karzai, I just -- I can't say anything positive for the moment about President Karzai. I think despite that the effort to build an army with an officer corps that's increasingly well trained, that is able to operate is moving forward. It's very uneven.
IGNATIUSEvery time I go to Afghanistan, and I'll be there again in a few weeks, I try to look carefully at the army and ask not just our senior officers who always tell you, you know, they've got all the metrics about how great everything is, but to ask the enlisted men who fight alongside of them, how -- these guys -- are these guys up to it? How good are they as fighters? And the answer I always get is, man, they got a long way to go.
IGNATIUSBut they are making progress and I think this 2014 date is one we need to move toward. Between now and 2014, what we have to hope for is that there's some kind of political process. There's first dialogue that leads to some form of negotiation that leads to some kind of new structures that are more inclusive than the ones that we have now and that -- you know, that's where I hope it's going.
REHMAnd what about this drawdown schedule to begin next month. Do you see it as substantial? Do you see it as minimal? How do you see it?
IGNATIUSI think it'll be significant enough that the president can say, I'm delivering on my promise to begin to withdraw the additional 30,000...
REHMGive me a ballpark figure that would justify that comment.
IGNATIUSYou know, I would just be guessing. I think honestly, General Petraeus is still putting together his recommendation, so in a sense, I don't think there is an answer yet. You know, I would think it would be on the order of three to 5,000 out of 30…
REHMAs opposed to 10,000.
IGNATIUSYeah, I think 10,000, it'd be a big roll of the dice right now. But the honest truth is, I don't know. The -- it's one reason I want to go out there is to see on the eve of this withdrawal what things look like, so I'll come back and tell you in July. But the larger point that I really try to explore in my novel, in the way that a novelist can is, what is the emotional shape of negotiation and peacemaking in this part of the world. It's different. We're not talking about the Congress of Vienna here, obviously.
REHMDavid Ignatius, the new novel is titled, "Blood Money," and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Omar, the character you just read to us about, who witnesses the destruction of family, friends, aren't there a lot of Omars in Pakistan who perhaps did have some faith, did feel that if they played by certain rules, including helping Americans, that somehow they could help guide policy towards some good resolution and then witnessing destruction turned against?
IGNATIUSI think it's terribly difficult for people in that part of the world, or in truth, any part of the world, who want to work with the United States towards a more free and democratic future to hang on. I'll give you a personal example from the period in which I was beginning research on this book. I traveled in early 2009 to Pakistan, it was one of my early trips, with the late Richard Holbrooke.
IGNATIUSAnd Holbrooke was just, you know, in all of his dominating energy, leading this one and talking to that one and his aides had arranged for us, in Islamabad, to meet with a group of young Pashtun tribes people from North and South Waziristan and from other tribal agencies.
IGNATIUSThey came into Islamabad and we met them in the house of a U.S. Embassy official. They were so articulate. They were the most admirable young people. These were the sons of the Malacs and from prominent families, but they said, you know, we were left alone. The Pakistani government does nothing for us in terms of schools, in terms of any of the things that we need, you know.
IGNATIUSAnd they were appealing to the United States, can't you help us? They understood that we were going after our enemies there. I mean, they don't -- the Arabs who came into the tribal areas, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, the people from that part of Pakistan don't like them any more than we do. They resent that presence, I should underline that. So they were reaching out and almost -- it was so moving to listen to them.
IGNATIUSOkay. Our meeting finishes. Everybody's taking notes. We think, gosh, we've got to get serious about helping these people. I was told that on their way back to the tribal areas, these brave young people, who ought to be the future of that part of Pakistan, were stopped by the ISI and were interrogated about their contacts. Who did you talk to? Why did you do this? What are you doing talking to the Americans? It was a snapshot of what's wrong in this relationship. It was just classic.
IGNATIUSAnd I think that's -- every time we try to get some momentum for good policies, I think there are elements in the Pakistani government that get nervous, that think we're undermining them somehow. That's one of the things that's got to change.
REHMI want to hear more about this CIA group in your novel because, you know, here it is out there in California, operating so, so beyond the pale. Tell me about it.
IGNATIUSWell, okay. In real life, right -- this is a novel, so you should understand that what's in the book is imaginary. I'll say that and people are, oh, yeah, right. But it is. It's imaginary. The real life problem that the CIA has is simple. In a world where it's increasingly easy to spot intelligence officers overseas under traditional cover, it's normally diplomatic cover, and in a world in which that kind of cover doesn't do you much good -- I mean, you're not going to recruit agents who are going to get you into al-Qaida at cocktail parties, you know, with the diplomatic attache, no way.
IGNATIUSSo there is a desire to find new platforms, is the term avard (sp?), new platforms that use modern technology, the kinds of equipment that used to take up a whole code room now fit in your hand. I mean, this technology applies to the intelligence world as much as any other. And so I think there has been experimentation with that kind of cover. And I think it's a good thing. I think if we're going to have an intelligence service, it ought to be secret.
REHMWe're going to talk more about that secret operation and David Ignatius' new novel, "Blood Money."
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones for David Ignatius. We're talking about his new novel of espionage, it's titled, "Blood Money." He, of course, is the author of the book, "Body of Lies," which has become a very popular movie. Let's go first to Warrior, Ala. Good morning, Anthony, you're on the air.
ANTHONYGood morning. I would like to know from the guest if he considers Charlie Wilson a hero for inadvertently finding the Taliban? And what do you think Charlie Wilson had in mind? Was he a neoconservative or did he have some other agenda?
IGNATIUSYou know, it would be hard for me to call Charlie Wilson a neoconservative. He was somebody who felt correctly that we weren't using all the leverage that we could in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people get the Soviets out and he came up with this idea of arming the Afghans with stingers and that did make Afghanistan a no-fly zone for the Soviets and the war ended pretty soon.
IGNATIUSThe problem for me is less Charlie Wilson arming the Taliban with stingers than the fact that we never collected the stingers afterwards, so we were confident that we had them under control and that we walked away from Afghanistan. We basically guaranteed a bad outcome. We pumped the place with money and weapons, created warlords who were just, you know, out of control and then we walked away. What did we expect was going to happen?
IGNATIUSWhen I look back at the spirit, I wonder to myself, what did people think was going to happen? There really was no other possible outcome with all that money floating around. The ISI was trying desperately to keep a handle on it and that got into a lot of bad things itself, but, you know what? Your question, did we create the Taliban? In a sense, you'd have to say that we bear some -- we bear a lot of moral responsibility for that.
REHMInteresting. To Jackson, Mich. Good morning, Liz.
LIZGood morning. Mr. Ignatius, I had the pleasure of having lunch -- I won the pleasure of having lunch with you at a charity auction for the Brevard School. And at the time, you had written, I believe, five books and I had kind of felt one of the plots was not very believable and you explained to me that it actually had taken place.
LIZAnd that kinda prompts me to wonder in this current book, you have said that the kind of secret CIA group is a figment of your imagination and I have read many times that there are little offshoots sometimes within the CIA that is not public and that it gets its funding kind of hidden to the CIA budget. How likely is that that this is going on today? And don't you believe that those kinds of almost subversive groups within the CIA are just as problematic as the secret intelligences is in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq?
REHMInteresting. And if you think about Iran-Contra, David.
IGNATIUSYes. Well, first, thanks to Liz for bidding on me at that auction and we had a nice conversation. The CI is looking for more clandestine platforms, no question about it. And they have to be very careful in doing that, that they don't use that as a window to doing the kinds of activities that would create enormous problems for them and the country and that might be illegal.
IGNATIUSWhat I describe is an attempt to create a genuinely clandestine platform through this wacky operation in Studio City, Calif., that basically spins out of control. It gets -- it becomes self-financing. It's off books. The treasure is not appropriating, Congress is not appropriating money to fund it. It is self-funding through what I think is a fascinating machination involving a hedge fund.
IGNATIUSI mean, think, if you had secret information, the kind the agency has, what kind of money you could make. Well, in this book, somebody begins playing with that idea and suddenly, you have a sort of Frankenstein monster being born. This kind of danger is one reason that the CI, over the 30 years I've been writing about it, has always been somewhat reluctant to go to the so-called non-official cover knock operations because the danger of abuse is so large and, you know, the CI officers are control freaks anyway, they don't like people operating at some distance.
IGNATIUSBut Liz is right, the danger is there. Is it actually happening now? Not so far as I know. Could it happen? You bet.
REHMTo Avon, N.Y. Good morning, David.
DAVIDHi. Boy, talk about so many things said just listening to you guys. I called up about basically, you were talking about, you know, the people with their hearts, you know, in fear all the time and I remember that one time about Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe back in 1840s or whatever, when he feared that this tribe would be massacred if he didn't sell the property. And he stated that, he says, when you turn the hearts of men black with fear and hate, especially at the loss of loved ones, we think revenge gain, even unto losing one's own life in that gain.
DAVIDSo, you know, you're looking at these drones and they're bombing. I mean, the good and the bad die. It's ugly, it's obscene, it's pure evil. And would wonder why they want to come back at us? And plus, we open the 21st century by starting a war on terror. I mean, a war on terror, when terror is, you know, evil itself or -- I don't know how to explain it, but it just scares the hell out of me about what's going on.
REHMI think you're not alone in your feeling. And here we are, David, fighting in the tribal areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan. The fear, as David puts it, is there. How do we get out of this? How is their sense of how to make peace different from our sense of how to make peace?
IGNATIUSIn answering that, I want to first respond to what David said powerfully, quoting that chief and I want to read a couplet that opens this book from John Milton, the famous British poet, in, "Paradise Lost." "Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter erelong back on itself recoils." That's what we've been living. We have been living after September 11, 2001 the experience of trying to get even with these people who did a terrible thing to us. I mean, none of us can forget that day and the black feeling in our hearts of being they came at us, they did this terrible thing to us, so we've been trying to deal with that.
IGNATIUSAnd we've been creating enemies there. I mean, all you have to do is imagine what it's like to be under our bombs and what that would do to you. And so the question is, how do we each untangle ourselves from that process of anger and revenge? What I found fascinating working on this book is that the Pashtun culture, this is a rough part of the world. It's a part of the world where wars start quickly. You know, it's a place where people are always feuding.
IGNATIUSBut for that reason, it's also a place where they know how to end wars, because wars can't go on forever. So they know how to start them. They also know how to end them. And let me explain how they end them. They end them with a ritual process that established a balance of respect between the two parties, between the victor and vanquished. They end when somebody goes to the other in a show of humility and sometimes with the most moving gestures.
IGNATIUSOne thing they do in this part of the world is sometimes men will put grass in their mouths as if they're farm animals and go in this most humble way to the house of their adversary as if to say, let me in, it's time, we need to sit in mutual respect and resolve this. Sometimes they'll go to the house of somebody who would shoot them in any other circumstances, to the funeral of someone in the family who's been killed. And because of the rituals of hospitality, you have to let a visitor in. And that visitor is there and the visitor expresses condolence and expresses a desire to have some end to this struggle.
IGNATIUSAnd I cite these aspects of Pashtunwali, the Pashtun tribal code, because I think our policymakers need to really read into the culture of that part of the world because there is a very specific ritual for ending conflict. We think of ending conflict by basically, you know, overpowering our adversary. And in that part of the world, sometimes people will keep fighting to the last just to preserve their dignity. And if you could preserve their dignity in some process of negotiation, you might be able to get out of the mess a whole lot sooner.
REHMWhich is why you were very hopeful and optimistic about Secretary Clinton's efforts?
IGNATIUSWell, to call me hopeful and optimistic...
REHM(laugh) Can't do that.
IGNATIUS...that overstates it.
IGNATIUSBut I do want to call people's attention to an important process that's going on that doesn't get written about much. Our Secretary of State has said, we are in the negotiation business. We are conducing secret negotiations, which were disclosed first in Spiegel, a German magazine, and then written about. They're important and they're heading toward a path that if we can find a way to follow it, will take us somewhere.
REHMBut given the fact that General Cartwright was done out of his position as chair of the joint chiefs because the generals around him were apparently, according to some reports, unhappy because he wanted to get more -- or send fewer than 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. What does that say? On the one hand, the military is leading, on the other hand, the State Department is negotiating?
IGNATIUSGeneral Cartwright is a brilliant officer. He was the advocate during the Afghanistan Policy Review of what came to be known as the Counter Terrorism, the CT Plus Strategy. And we shouldn't get confused about, you know, that meeting that he was advocating a more specific and diplomatic approach. In fact, what he was saying was, we need to rely more on predators, we need to rely more on stand-off weapons, we need to rely more on our technology.
IGNATIUSAnd the other side in that argument was saying, no, we have to get down with the people and learn their culture and stop, you know, shooting at them so much from the air. I mean, that was General McChrystal's argument was, we gotta back off on this stuff 'cause we're just making enemies. And if we want to get stability, the way to do it is not through more predator strikes from the air, not through CT, but through counter insurgency, through COIN is the initial.
IGNATIUSSo it's a complicated argument, as I say. General Cartwright is one of the smartest officers I've ever met, but it's a mistake to think that he was advocating diplomacy. He was advocating predator strikes.
REHMAll right. Let's go now to Dallas, Texas. Good morning, Scott, you're on the air.
SCOTTThank you. I'm really disappointed that it takes a novel for you to bring this stuff out 'cause it's relevant. And I think too often, you end up being a cover for whatever the administration wants to do. You know, again, it wasn't Charlie Wilson, it was Bertinsky (sp?) that lured the Russians into Afghanistan to begin with, but, you know, you like to give the common story, but you know the details and that's really most disturbing.
IGNATIUSWe saw in the Arab Spring the duplicity of American policy and how it really makes no sense, but we haven't really, you know, sweated that out and I think, you know, resolved that stuff. We've got to treat other people with respect also and until we do -- and that needs to be part of all the reporting, not just novels.
IGNATIUSIt's a fair point. All of the major themes that I've talked about on the show today are ones that I have written columns about. You know, I see my job as finding out stuff and sometimes that's stuff from people in the administration and make no bones about that. But I think your basic point is right, that we need to see this whole all the time.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Salem, Ill. Good morning, Jeremy.
JEREMYGood morning. My question was what about the people who live in these tribal areas? Don't they see themselves as being free or being under a tribal system of government as opposed to, you know, a state government, you know, like Pakistan coming in and telling them what to do, doesn't that seem like an infringement on their tribal sovereignty?
IGNATIUSYes. There is a peculiar arrangement for governance in the tribal areas. These tribal areas are administered under something called the Frontier Code of Regulation. The Pakistanis call it the FCR, which is basically a vestige of the time of the British Raj. These are such wild areas that the British and then the Pakistanis just thought it was too tough to go in and set up governance like you have in the rest of Pakistan.
IGNATIUSMy own personal feeling is that the time for that is past. That if there's one positive thing that could come out of this period, it is that the tribal areas and their people be drawn into one country, where their culture would be respected, where they would have democratic rights. I actually think it could shake up Pakistani politics in a fabulous way, so the existing parties which are corrupt and (word?) would have to negotiate with a Pashtun party that was passionate about this part of the country.
IGNATIUSI think of those kids that I met when I was with Richard Holbrooke and they were appealing for a chance to play in the real world -- in the real world of Pakistan. I think that's the answer. I'd love to see policymakers focus on this. Every time I say this to Pakistani friends, they kind of say, oh, yes, David, that would be wonderful, but, you know, wait 10 years. And we don't have 10 years to wait. I think it's time to...
IGNATIUS...to do this with respect, but also with deliberation.
REHMDavid, question that still is going around, do you believe that Pakistan's Intelligence Service knew the whereabouts of bin Laden?
IGNATIUSEvery time I ask this of officials of our government, they say they have no evidence that top officials knew.
IGNATIUSI find it hard to imagine that if top officials knew and were, in effect, administering this shelter program, that we wouldn't have found out about it through our surveillance. At the same time, I also find it -- I find it impossible to imagine that some people at a lower level, who had been bribed, who had been co-opted into the al-Qaida Taliban network, but had links with ISI didn't know. And, you know, I just have a feeling that as we sift through the stuff we took out of bin Laden's compound, we're going to find the answer.
REHMDavid Ignatius, his new novel of espionage is titled, "Blood Money." You're going to have a lot of fun reading it. David, thank you so much for joining me.
IGNATIUSThanks. Thank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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